Jimmy Carter’s UFO

Back in 1969, while attending some event or other in Leary, Georgia, Jimmy Carter, US President from 1977 to 1981, saw a UFO.

I appreciate that this is not exactly breaking news. Nor is it one of those stories hidden under a veil of secrecy that I have courageously unearthed through diligent research. It appears, from the Wikipedia article I read on the subject, that Jimmy discussed the event openly at the time and has done so many times since. I believe there was even some sort of official enquiry in the early 70s, though I’m not going to bother looking up the details. This isn’t me being lazy or sloppy – though both things happen more often than I would like. It’s just that the actual facts don’t change the basic point, which is that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO.

In other news, Kelsey Grammar is back on our screens as Frasier Crane. I haven’t watched the latest reboot, but I was a huge fan of the original Frasier sitcom back in the 1990s.

One episode I particularly enjoyed was “The Candidate”. Frasier and his brother Niles were both appalled when their father, Martin, starred in an advert for a local right wing candidate. In order to redress the balance Frasier throws his public support behind his left wing opponent. He is then horrified when Phil Patterson tells him, in confidence, that he not only believes in aliens but has actually met them. In the hilarious mix up that followed Frasier accidentally broadcasts Phil’s secret on his radio show and was the ultimate cause of him being trounced at the ballot box and publicly humiliated..

The stories are obviously different, but if Carter had been running for president in 1996 I think that his sighting of a UFO would have been a bigger story than it was when he ran 20 years earlier. Spool time forward to now and I think it would take a brave politician, either in the US or over here in the UK, to even admit having seen a UFO, let alone happily talk about it in public.

It would be easy to conclude that we simply live in a less credulous age. 1969 was the year of the moon landings, at the height of the space race. Everyone thought they were seeing the birth of something new, whereas we all know it fizzled out to nothing.

But this would be lazy thinking. After all, many voters and journalists happily give time to candidates with views that would have been considered extremist or even crackpot in the recent past. Conspiracy theories are on the rise and fake news spreads like wildfire across social media. We remain as credulous as ever. All that has changed is our expectations of our elected representatives. Politicians can be as wild as they like when it comes to policy, but woe betide any of them who show themselves up as being anything less than conformist in this age of supposed individualism.

Not so long ago we went through a period where every British politician was at pains to demonstrate their everyman credentials by admitting to smoking the odd joint during their wild university days. Of course I suspect the admissions only came following serious research with pollsters and focus groups. And they were ever so sanitised. I don’t recall any politician chatting happily about how drugs had ruined their lives and their marriages. Nor did the admissions stretch to kinky sex or their desire to build as large a nest egg as possible for themselves and their families. Nevertheless, for a short time, it made them seem just a little bit more real.

Of course it didn’t last. But maybe the pendulum will swing back in a few years and politicians will again be happy to chat about their UFO sitings, or start believing in ghosts. I sort of hope so, because if we really want our politicians to be like us, then it’s about time they got a bit more interesting.

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